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Spring Break in Japan M ost years, spring break falls on the last, most intense couple of weeks of the tax season, so my kids are stuck at home with their dad. But not this year! This was the
year of finishing up tax season one day early and my husband taking the three oldest kids (10, 8, and 6) and me for an epic spring break of nine days in Japan. Japan did not disappoint — we had a great time! We spent 15–18 hours a day on our feet, sampling the cuisine and admiring the nature, people, and culture. We drove on the left to see Mount Fuji, took the bullet train to Hiroshima, walked in a bamboo grove in Kyoto, and visited the second tallest structure in the world, the Tokyo Skytree. We connected with locals as much as possible, immersing ourselves in Japanese customs and experiencing the differences. After the long months of the “once in a generation” tax season, I enjoyed spending every waking moment with the kids and my husband. Japan is known for its traditional arts, cleanliness, and reserved and polite people, but what always fascinated me was how “quickly” the U.S. and Japan became allies after Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. Eighty-four percent of Japanese people now feel “close” to the U.S, and after the accession of Crown Prince Naruhito to the throne just a couple of days ago on May 1, President Trump will be the first foreign leader to meet the emperor at the end of this month. The English language Japanese paper I read while in Tokyo wrote that this “symbolizes the unshakable bond of the Japan-U.S. alliance.” Why does this stick out to me? Maybe because I grew up in a nationally fragmented Europe where different nations cannot, even today, forget and forgive the old wrongs that have been done to them. Even while they now enjoy economic integration and strong common institutions within the European Union, the population of most Eastern and Central European countries would certainly not vote 84 percent for feeling good about another country they historically had conflicts with. To cite my own background as an example, millions of Hungarians, including my great-grandparents, suddenly found themselves living in foreign countries nearly a hundred years ago when the Trianon Peace Treaty was signed on June 4, 1920, in
The Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima. The only structure that was left standing near the A-bomb’s hypocenter. It has been preserved to symbolize peace.
Versailles. This was one of the most traumatic events in Hungary’s collective memory and a recurring issue even in current politics.
Without consulting the local residents, Hungary’s population dropped from over 20 million to less than 8 million, with most of the displaced populations now living in Romania, the former Yugoslavia, and the former Czechoslovakia. The disintegration left Hungary with less than 93,000 of the initial 325,000 square kilometers of its territory. On some very palpable level, Trianon is still as alive and raw in the people’s hearts as it was 99 years ago. Not 84 percent forgiveness, for sure.
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